Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Details that Convince: Opinions, Persuasion, and Arguments

I'm reading an exciting new resource, The Big Book of Details by Rozlyn Linder.  This book is all about teaching students the "moves" authors use to elaborate in their writing.  Once again, an amazing educator has done the heavy lifting for us.  Linder researched, studied, sorted, analyzed great texts and authors.  She focused on three common ways that teachers can use the ideas in her book.

  1. Troubleshooting during writing conferences~pull out a lesson that will benefit a student right then and there
  2. Use the book as a go-to manual.  When planning mini-lessons you can use the book as a resource for teaching points.
  3. Pull a particular section to enhance your own or a scripted writing unit of study you use.
The organization of the book is terrific!  Each chapter addresses a particular type of detail and genre. Within each chapter, specific teaching and writing "moves" are addressed.  I really can't read this book fast enough, but I also wanted to get right to the work we're currently focusing on, namely opinion/argument writing.  I rushed right to Chapter 4~Details That Convince.  Following are the "moves" that Rozlyn identifies in this chapter that can help students elaborate.  This chart is a summary of the "moves"shared in p. 96-135.

The Move:  If...Then...
Description:The writer suggests a relationship between two events, ideas, or concepts. There is no proof that If...Then... sentences are true.  Writers use this move to get into a reader’s head, causing the reader to think about how two things go together.
If kids keep getting homework assignments, then...
If we donate compost to the local pig farm then
If you drive too fast, then...
The Move:  Opposite Side
Description:The writer acknowledges or states a counterclaim.  The move does not focus on developing the counterclaim, it just recognizes that another point of view exists
Some people think...
Many people believe that…
Some argue…
It is often believed…
One viewpoint is…
On one hand...
The Move: Good Question
Description:The writer asks the reader a question or series of questions.  This move is a great way for writers to add their own voice, style or point of view.
Have you ever considered…
Why do so many people…
What is…
Who says…
Did you ever consider...
The Move: Imagine This
Description:The writer plays on the emotions of the reader.  It is mostly used in argument writing.
Picture this…
Imagine this…
Picture a world where…
The Move: Very Complicated
Description:The writer clearly announces that a topic is hard.  Short sentences are used to let the reader know what the text is about without giving the author’s viewpoint right away.
This is complicated!
____ can be very complex.
____ is multifaceted.
Explaining _____ can be challenging.
Analyzing _____is not as simple as it may seem.
The Move: Numbers Game
Description:The writer uses numerical data to support arguments and claims.
⅔ of all people polled…
50% of voters…
From 1975-2015...
The Move: Now and Then
Description:The writer points out how beliefs, ideas, or practices that used to be accepted, are now not the case.
This is done in explanatory and argument writing often at the beginning to show how things have changed from the past OR to criticize a current belief with an argument for a return to a past way of thinking.
For many years…
You might find this hard to believe…
Once upon a time in…
Several years ago…
In the past...
The Move: We the People
Description:The writer deliberately uses first-person pronouns-we, us, our, and second-person pronoun you in argument writing.  This move makes the reader feel that both the reader and writer share the same experiences and thinking
We look and we know…
You are one of…
Our problem...
The Move: Call to Action
Description:The writer directly asks or tells the reader to take action.  Writers often use this move for strong conclusions to restate or explain the benefit of taking action.
Make a promise to yourself…
So the next time…
You need to...

Friday, March 25, 2016

Oh my, my, NEW BOOKS!

This week some new arrivals have been added to the library in the PD office. YEAH!  I'm very excited to get reading these books. Here's a quick book buzz for each.  I think I'm going to start with The Big Book of Details by Rozlyn Linder, it has a great chapter for our current opinion/argument writing unit, "Details that Convince: Opinions, Persuasion and Arguments".  How great does that sound? Stay tuned for specifics about this chapter!

Product Details
This book by Kylene Beers and Robert
Probst is the companion to Notice and Note
that I featured in a previous blog post.  It includes
strategies for attentive reading, analyzing author's
craft, and fixing up confusions!
Product Details
Handy bookmarks that give
students a quick reminder
about the signposts
for both fiction and nonfiction.
Product Details
This one could be my new favorite!
I love the way it is organized, it's similar
to The Reading Strategies Book.  This book
focuses on 46 "moves" for teaching elaboration!

Product Details
A new read aloud that I'll be using with
sixth grade classes.  Written by one of my favorite authors,
 Eve Bunting, the strong theme in this book is that standing
up for what you know is right is not always easy!
Product Details
Written by two leaders in the Teacher's College Reading
and Wriitng Project, this brand new book will be released on April 28.
I can't wait! I'm so excited to add more tools to my DIY Literacy toolbox!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Professional Growth in Coaching

Recently, on the blog, Two Writing Teachers, they have featured a series about professional development opportunities.  I love all their posts, but this series in particular is near and dear to my professional heart. On Thursday, March 10, 2016, Beth Moore posted an entry titled, Teaching Side by Side:Coaching and Classroom Visits.  Beth identified four types of classroom visits.
  1. Research Visits
  2. Coaching Teachers to Support a Goal
  3. Demonstrating Methods to Support a Goal
  4. Combination Visits that include pieces of #1-3
Using Beth's framework I was able to reflect on my work.  It was an important opportunity for me to analyze how I'm progressing in regard to my own professional development goals as a first year coach.

Research Visits
During these visits I have the opportunity to gather information for teachers.  This might be data on a particular student, observation of particular teaching techniques, collecting data on student engagement and stamina, etc.  I've been doing a lot of this work in grades 2 & 3 especially in the area of independent reading.  I love the opportunity to have conversations with teachers about the data we collect.

Coaching Teachers to Support a Goal
Coaching visits are when I actively participate in a lesson with a teacher.  We "coach" each other along the way, I'm a co-teacher in the classroom. In these settings I work side-by-side with the classroom teacher, we teach and learn together. I've been fortunate to do a lot of this in grades K and 1 this year implementing both the WUOS and RUOS. In grades 4 and 5 we did a lot of this when teaching students discussion protocols and I've just begun this work with grade 6.  I love the thinking "on our feet", and the "two heads are better than one" ideas that come from this type of coaching.  

Demonstrating Methods to Support a Goal
Demonstration visits are visits when I'm the primary teacher.  I plan and implement the lesson(s) the classroom teacher is my "wingman/woman".  I love these visits because teachers give me the opportunity to use my own pedagogy and try out new lessons.  I learn with and from our shared students.  Demonstration visits have really promoted my own professional growth this year.  They give me an opportunity to stretch my skills and get feedback from my colleagues.  This work often spills over into discussions in our weekly PD sessions because we've all had a common experience. I've been fortunate to do this type of work in grades PreK-6 this year.  The variety of grade levels and lessons from discussion, to mini-lessons, and interactive read-alouds has been diverse and FUN!  I love getting feedback on my own teaching!

Combination Visits
I have to say, I think everytime I am in a classroom it is a combination visit.  During these visits I sometimes co-teach, sometimes demonstrate, sometimes meet with small groups or one on one, sometimes collect data, sometimes problem solve.  The most important part of these visits is the time I spend with students and the reflection I do with teachers.  It is amazing how we have so much to talk about!  I thrive on the professional conversations and insights I gain through every visit.  I love sharing the joy of teaching with my colleagues.

I have to admit, when I first saw the topic of Beth's post, I was a bit scared, actually petrified.  I was afraid to look at my own novice coaching practices and see how I might measure up.  I'm truly my own worst critic. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of coaching I've been able to do this year, in year one.  How has this happened?  The answer is easy, I work with some of the most amazing children on the planet.  I work with some of the most amazing colleagues on the planet. Collectively they continue to help me learn and grow in my new role. Our students and my colleagues have supported me in the bumps in the road. To all of them, I am eternally grateful, our work has just begun.

I began this year with this quote in mind:

"One can go back toward safety or forward toward growth.  Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again."~Abraham Maslow

I thank our students and staff everyday for giving me the opportunity to live out this quote on a daily basis.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Notice and Note

Product Details
I recently read the book Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst.  These award winning scholars are leaders in the field of literacy instruction.  In Notice and Note, Beers and Probst identify six reading “Signposts” that help students read literary texts with deeper connections and understanding.  Their work has been especially identified for use with students who struggle with comprehension.

Notice and Note addresses the idea of rigor in instruction.  Beers and Probst state, “Rigor is not an attribute of a text but rather a characteristic of our behavior with that text.  Put another way, rigor resides in the energy and attention given to the text, not in the text itself.” (p. 20)  They go on to state, “The essential element in rigor is engagement.  The rigor has to be achieved by engaging readers in a process that is sufficiently interesting or rewarding that they’ll invest energy in the work.” (p. 22)

The “Signposts” detailed in Notice and Note provide teachers with an excellent resource to aid students with their interaction and understanding of text. “It is the interaction, the transaction, between the reader and the text that not only creates meaning but creates the reason to read.”  (p.3)  In their research, Beers and Probst discovered that the more students noticed these signposts, the more they were using the comprehension processes: visualizing, predicting, summarizing, clarifying, questioning, inferring, and making connections

Following is a summary of “The Signposts” Beers and Probst have developed.  They believe these signposts, “show up in novels because they show up in our world”. (p.74) The information below is directly from p. 71-73 and p. 71-75 in Notice and Note (I just did a little tweaking!).  The book and it’s companion Literature Log are available to borrow in the EMES PD office.  I’ve recently ordered their Notice and Note for nonfiction text, I’m anxious to see those signposts!

Signpost #1:  Contrasts & Contradictions
  • A character’s actions or thoughts clearly contradict previous behavior.  These changes offer new insight into the character
Clues to the Signpost
  • A character behaves or thinks in a way we don’t expect, or an element of a setting is something we wouldn’t expect.
Literary Elements it Helps Readers Understand
  • Character development
  • Internal conflict
  • Theme
  • Relationship between setting and plot

Signpost #2:  Aha Moment
  • A character has a sudden insight or understanding that helps the reader understand the plot’s movement, develops the character more deeply or a conflict the character faces.
Clues to the Signpost
  • Common phrases/clues to this signpost:
  • Suddenly I understood...
  • It came to me in a flash that...
  • The realization hit me like a lightning bolt...
  • In an instant I knew…
Literary Elements it Helps Readers Understand
  • Character Development
  • Internal conflict
  • Plot

Signpost #3: Tough Questions
  • The main character pauses to ask of himself or a trusted other, tough questions.  These questions can reveal inner struggles.
Clues to the Signpost
  • Phrases that express doubt or confusion:
  • What could I possibly do…?
  • I couldn’t imagine how I could cope with…?
  • How could I ever understand why h/she…?
  • Never had I been so confused about..
Literary Elements it Helps Readers Understand
  • Internal conflict
  • Theme
  • Character development

Signpost #4: Words of the Wiser
  • A wiser and often older character offers a life lesson to the main character.  This is often the theme of the story or novel.
Clues to the Signpost
  • The main character and another share a quiet, serious moment.  The wiser figure shares wisdom or advice in an effort to help the main character solve a problem or make a decision.
Literary Elements it Helps Readers Understand
  • Theme
  • Internal conflict
  • Relationship between character and plot

Signpost #5: Again and Again
  • An image, word or situation is repeated, leading the reader to wonder the significance.
Clues to the Signpost
  • A word is repeated, or sometimes used in an odd way, over and over in the story.
  • An image reappears several times in a book.
Literary Elements it Helps Readers Understand
  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Symbolism
  • Theme
  • Character development
  • Conflict

Signpost #6: Memory Moment
  • A scene that interrupts the flow of the story and reveals something important about a character, plot, or theme.
Clues to the Signpost
  • The flow of the narrative is interrupted by a memory of a character over the course of several paragraphs, before a return to the present moment.

Literary Elements it Helps Readers Understand
  • Character development
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Relationship between character and plot

Thursday, March 3, 2016


I've been thinking a lot about TIME recently, maybe it's because of last week's vacation, but I've also been thinking of TIME in many facets of my life.  My life is pretty easy to compartmentalize into "work time" and "home time", yet these compartments can be broken down into many smaller pieces of time such as: planning, meeting, teaching, exercising, cooking, cleaning (haha), spending time with family, going to classes, homework, etc.  You know the drill.

In regard to work, the struggles of time, and time management are more and more present.  It seems every professional book, blog or article I read includes the "time issue".  I recently attended a literacy meeting where "best practices" were at the forefront of the discussion, as they should be.  I heard loud and clear, 90 minutes of an "uninterrupted" block of literacy instruction.  This 90 minutes would include reading and word study. Around me I heard the whispers of administrators, "impossible, can't do it, what else loses, what do we cut?"

It's true, 90 minutes "uninterrupted" is nearly impossible in our classrooms today.  I hate to say things compete for our students time, because I believe EVERYTHING is important, but things do compete.   Reading, writing, arithmetic, science, social studies, technology,  languages, art, music, PE, they are ALL IMPORTANT, they are ALL NECESSARY for our students, yet they all compete with one another, they are all stressing teachers out!  Yet, my greatest worry is that we are stressing our students out too.

As a professional development coach, I spend hours, and hours and hours reading research, professional texts, mentor texts, blogs, etc.   I'm always looking for anything and everything and sometimes it seems nothing.  I'm constantly in search of the holy grail. What will make the most difference for our students and teachers? Before I know it hours will have escaped me and I'll wonder what I've accomplished.  Time has once again gotten away from me, and what have I been doing?  Looking for answers on how we fix the time problem in our schools. 

How do we achieve that 90 minutes of "uninterrupted" literacy, the 60 minutes of math, the 60 minutes of writing workshop, without leaving the humanities, arts and sciences in the dust?  I haven't even mentioned the NEED for kids play within their school day.  I'm still looking for the answers.

I've come to one basic conclusion, because I had TIME to reflect.  We can't fix the time problem.  Every scenario will have its pitfalls, every schedule it's downside, every routine will take the place of something else that could/should be covered with students.  Being a glass half full kind of person, I've tried to put the TIME issue into perspective.  This is what I believe, know and read about all the time.
1.  Good teachers matter.  (I'm fortunate to be surrounded by AMAZING teachers!)
2.  Teachers know their students best, therefore they make the best and right decisions for their students.
3.  Teams of adults working together can solve big problems.
4.  Students need TIME to talk, discuss, problem solve, reflect, and PLAY.
5.  Teachers need TIME to talk, discuss, problem solve, reflect, and PLAY.

So, I'm going to keep these ideas about TIME in my thoughts. I'm going to try to stay grounded and problem solve.  I'm going to make TIME for what I believe is right and about you?